GE's Immelt: 10 Ideas for Job Creation and Restored Competitiveness

Feb 13, 2012

Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO and chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, spoke at a U.S. Chamber Job Summit in 2011.

American businesses have what it takes to create jobs in the United States and restore American confidence and competitiveness, according to Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO and chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

“There are companies and communities all across the country that are leading the way,” Immelt said during the kickoff of a four-day event in Washington, D.C., focused on manufacturing, innovation, and job creation in America. “We know that renewing American manufacturing works; affordable healthcare works; high-skill training works; investing in people works; supporting customers works; accessing global markets works,” said Immelt.

Immelt outlined 10 ideas or best practices that have worked for GE. 

  • Invest in technology—Research and development spending has stagnated among U.S. companies at around 2% to 3%, which Immelt said is a mistake when you consider that investments in technology and innovation have a 30% return on investment.
  • Renew the manufacturing sector—American manufacturing is becoming more competitive because of lower energy costs and because it offers companies like GE better control of its supply chains. GE has created 11,000 manufacturing jobs since 2009.
  • Pursue export markets—No country is off limits in terms of sales and growth. “Competing means selling in every corner of the world,” Immelt said, while pointing out that 60% of GE’s revenues come from overseas markets.
  • Partner to lower health care costs—GE relies on its’ GE Health Choice, an employee-directed health care plan launched in 2010 and a vigorous wellness program at all 620 of its work sites. As a result, GE’s healthcare costs for salaried employees were lower in 2010 than in 2009.
  • Go all-in on energy—The U.S. has a competitive advantage on energy, Immelt said, and needs to develop all of it, natural gas, renewables, clean coal and oil, and shale. 
  • Work with customers—GE Capital has been focusing on the 200,000 middle market companies with $10 million to $1 billion in revenues through its “Access GE” program, which helps these companies identify products or services that might be right for them.
  • Develop the industrial internet—GE is focusing on designing software that would make the idea of intelligent machines a reality. The company is opening a new global software center in Northern California, with plans to hire 400 software engineers to develop code for Internet-connected devices--such as GE household appliances or medical imaging equipment--to collect data and communicate maintenance needs before there is an equipment failure.
  • Encourage high-skills training—Immelt pointed to two successful programs recommended by the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. One program leverages community colleges to get employees trained and skills certified within six weeks in advanced manufacturing. The other program is focused on graduating more engineers.
  • Empowering teams—Giving employees accountability leads to results, Immelt said, noting that one of his work sites has 355 employees and only one manager.
  •  Build public-private partnerships—While the private sector drives job creation, government can be a catalyst, Immelt said. GE Aviation chose to build two manufacturing plants in Mississippi in part because of the entrepreneurial focus of former Gov. Haley Barbour, and training and infrastructure assistance from the Mississippi Development Authority.

Immelt announced that GE will launch several new programs throughout the year, including:

  • Hiring 5,000 U.S. veterans over the next five years and sponsoring a "Hire our Heroes" partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help veterans integrate into the civilian workforce and match them to jobs.
  • Doubling the number of GE engineering interns to more than 5,000 as part of an initiative proposed by the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to add 10,000 more engineering graduates a year in the U.S.


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